Saturday, March 12, 2016

Parties gear up for FCT area council polls

Image result for Area council poll: Bwari council  PDP aspirants
Political parties have commenced serious preparations for the Federal Capital Territory’s (FCT) chairmanship and councillorship elections coming up this month on 19th march 2016. According to the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), recently in Abuja, the tenure of the area council chairmen would expire on May 17, 2016, while elections are slated for March 19, 2016.
Analysts say the elections would witness stiff contest as other political parties are warming up to campaign vigorously and give the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a big challenge at the polls. However, while tension is rising among the political actors and parties preparing to participate in the elections, some members of the public are calling on those who will emerge winners to work in the interest of the people. The six area councils where the elections will be conducted are Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Abaji, Kuje, Kwali, Gwagwalada and Bwari area councils. citynewsng gathered that some political parties have already held their primaries ahead of the elections while a few others are constrained by lack of resources to participate in the elections, and have called on the federal government to change the tide and resurrect the funding of political parties which was stopped some years ago. Similarly, leaders of some political parties who spoke with our correspondent, expressed concern over what they called “heavy monetisation” of the electoral process by the “big parties” which they claimed ‘buy’ the electorate, leaving the “small parties” with nothing. They expressed fears that if the trend continued, Nigeria would be far from achieving true democracy. Apart from the ruling APC, which Daily Trust gathered has resolved to campaign robustly for the elections and win majority of the councils, the PDP is also set for the contest, as it has already conducted its primary election and is ready to participate in the exercise. The PDP frowned at recent experiences where, it said, the commission conducted inconclusive elections, since Professor Mahmood Yakubu assumed office as chairman. The opposition party advised that INEC should ensure that the FCT council elections were conclusive in order to avoid the headache and confusion inconclusive elections visit on political parties and the electorate. It would be recalled that the recent Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections were declared inconclusive by INEC, a trend the PDP frowns at. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has also confirmed to our correspondent that it would take active part in the election, adding that it has already conducted its primary election. APGA's National Director of Publicity, Mr. Ifeanacho Oguejiofor, said the party was ready to make history in the elections and called on INEC to give all political parties a level playing field for a credible and transparent electoral process. But the situation with the African Peoples Alliance (APA) is different as the party’s national secretary, Ismaila Umar, said it was not prepared to participate in the elections. He said the party does not have a credible and popular candidate to field. Another source in the party, who craved anonymity, however said the party has no financial strength to lock horns with big parties like the APC and the PDP. "It is glaring that elections have been turned into something else in the Nigerian environment. The big parties hijack everything. Heavy monetisation of election by big parties and money bags has become a worrisome trend threatening our democracy. For this reason, small parties like ours only have to rear their heads in subtle form," he said. But the Citizens Popular Party (CPP) said it will do all it takes to contest and win the FCT elections following democratic principles and norms. A former presidential candidate and current national chairman of the party, Chief Sam Eke, said INEC should improve its performance in the elections to ensure the exercise is free and fair to avoid litigations after the polls. Chief Eke said that it was ideal for the commission to improve on the use of card readers which was a good option for accreditation of voters. He also advocated electronic voting system for Nigeria in future elections. A top party official of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) said the party is not likely to contest the election for absence of chairmanship and councillorship candidates. He however said if there are serious aspirants, the party might weigh its options and consider the possibility of conducting primaries to field candidates for the elections. The Progressive People Alliance (PPA) has however conducted its primary and said it is ready to go into the race with other contenders. PPA national chairman, Chief Peter Ameh, who harped on the need for local government autonomy, stressed that INEC should be fair to all parties in the elections. The PPA said it is against rigging, manipulation of votes in favour of one party or the other, adding that security agencies must also live up to their responsibility of guaranteeing security at the polls for the country's democracy to grow. Similarly, the National Conscience Party (NCP) which has also conducted its primary election last week said the electorate should elect only people that would combat poverty in the land, improve on the quality of governance and the socio-economic well-being of Nigerians. NCP national chairman and former chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, said: "We should begin to look at the issue of party politics and shift away from the PDP to APC syndrome. Other political parties which will perform better in power should also be voted in the elections to guarantee good governance. "INEC should conduct free, fair, credible and transparent FCT elections where individuals who mean well for this nation will find themselves in the seat of power. For INEC to do this, it must be truly independent," he said. Similarly, the United Progressive Party (UPP) also said it would engage in issue-based and robust campaigns to ensure that it wins the chairmanship and councillorship seats in the elections. Former presidential candidate and current UPP national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, in a telephone interview with our correspondent said if the elections are free and fair the party would spring surprises. Meanwhile, a presidential candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the March/April general elections, Rafiu Salau, said the party has no candidate for the election and will not participate. He stated this in a telephone interview with Daily Trust on Saturday. His counterpart in Kowa Party, Umar Mustapha, also confirmed to Daily Trust on Saturday in an interview that his party would not participate in the elections for lack of a credible and popular candidate. But Action Alliance (AA) through its FCT secretary, Vernimbe .A. James, said that it would participate in the exercise with vigorous campaigns to ensure victory. However, it is not clear whether the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) would participate as calls and a text message sent to its national chairman, Malam Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, were not responded to.

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